“Can I have more brownies,” asked fifth grade student Aaliyah as she and the rest of the Community Bridges girls wrapped up their journal entries and handed them to Ms. Sia.
It was a normal Tuesday afternoon and, for the most part, the hallways of Broad Acres Elementary school were clear as the school day had ended and the janitors were putting finishing touches on the floors.
Sia Boima, program manager at Silver Spring non-profit Community Bridges, was tucked away down a side hallway with a class full of about 15 fourth and fifth grade girls who were eager to unwind after a long day of school work.
According to Katherine Morrison, the organization’s interim executive director, Community Bridges serves about 125 girls in the Silver Spring area each school year, starting at fourth grade and ending in the 12th. Their mission is to provide after-school programming to girls of mostly low-income, immigrant backgrounds whose guidance counselors recommend that, with the help of Community Bridges, the girls will be put on the right track to achieve their full potential.
“We empower them to be strong advocates for themselves and for their communities,” says Morrison, who, along with Boima, explains that the program is not a tutoring session for the girls to simply do school work.
At 3 p.m. every Tuesday, the girls of Broad Acres Elementary arrive to the Community Bridges after school program with Boima, where they start their session off with “One Up, One Down,” and discuss the highs and lows of their week. Next, the girls begin an ice breaker activity that leads to their main activity for the day.
Last Tuesday’s activity focused on education and the girls were asked to make fun poster boards using the words “Girls + Education=.” It was their job to fill in the equation of what those two words combined meant to them.
In the spring, all of the girls from the Community Bridges program will come together for a “True Colors Showcase” where they present some sort of talent or idea that they are comfortable with displaying for everyone. Boima explained how every activity they do until then would empower the girls to be comfortable enough to showcase something in the spring.
“A lot of our girls are shy,” Boima said. “That was Aaliyah’s story. That’s why her dad was adamant about her coming. Now we can’t get her to be quiet.”
Like Aaliyah, who is a returning Community Bridges student, some of the girls remain participants for more than one school year and are able to continue throughout their middle and high school years if their next school home is also a participating site. But like most non-profit organizations, Community Bridges runs into financial issues where they can’t answer the concerns of every girl.
“More girls need our help than we have the resources,” Morrison said.
On Oct. 23 at 6p.m., Community Bridges will host their Fall Fundraiser with Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr serving as the guest speaker.
The goal of the fundraiser is to help move one step closer in assisting every young girl who needs Community Bridges attention, with Katherine explaining that all proceeds will go to the program.
Learn more about Community Bridges on their website.
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